Which Type of Doctor are You?


Even within your specialty, there are a number of different ways for you to shine; as a trusted community physician, as a department leader, as a researcher and more. It is almost impossible to excel at everything.

As a physician, you have a variety of ways that you can approach your career. And that goes beyond choosing a specialty. Even within your specialty, there are a number of different ways for you to shine; as a trusted community physician, as a department leader, as a researcher and more. It is almost impossible to excel at everything. When you choose how you want to focus your medical career, you can be the best doctor you can be.

The Beloved Neighborhood Doctor-If you are a well-liked neighborhood doctor, then your patients love you and want your opinion. Even if you are an ophthalmologist, they seek your opinion about dialysis or cancer treatment. Your patients know that you have the most earnest and genuine motives. Patients recommend you to their families and friends and you are the definition of what it means when patients do not want to lose their doctors.

The Busy Doctor-The busy doctor is the doctor who never turns a potential patient away. The busy doctor extends office hours, is always available for phone calls from patients or other doctors, can always stop for a curbside consult, and consequently gets tons of referrals. The busy doctor can confidently say that she has the highest volume of patients in the region or the state. Generally, the busy doctor is also likeable and competent.

Upon finishing residency, most doctors have to pay hefty loans and may initially strive to be the busy doctor, moonlighting and working locums on top of regular work. Sometimes, the busy doctor is super-busy for a 10-15 year stretch and then slows down to a more sustainable pace.

The Hero- The hero doctor is known for being able to handle the most technically difficult cases or challenging clinical dilemmas. If you are the hero doctor, you are the one who other physicians in your own specialty turn to. Becoming the hero requires years of clinical practice and a meticulous approach to patient care that is above and beyond the usual standard of care.

As the hero, you may not necessarily reap the greatest financial rewards, as you often take on time-consuming, complex, incurable or risky cases. Outcomes might not objectively reflect your skill because you care for sicker patients. Sometimes, the hero doctor is honored with more job stability than other doctors, more clout in employed practice models, a prestigious position in academic setting, or clinical research opportunities, but the personal satisfaction derived from a job well done is the real motivation of the hero doctor.

Researcher- The researcher is skilled at writing grants, designing experiments, managing the finances and people involved in running a lab and reporting results in prestigious journals. It takes time and dedication to be a successful physician scientist. While some research physicians can run clinical practices, the combination is becoming more difficult because it is challenging to maintain a continuing stream of financial support for research projects. Yet, a track record of success as a medical scientist can present opportunities for academic promotion and may open the door to government research posts or leadership positions with medical manufacturers.

The Administrator- The administrator becomes employed in the hospital or health care system. Administrators often combine clinical work with administration, and if administrative responsibilities increase, generally reduce clinical work or leave it altogether. This type of direction is perfect for some doctors, and out of the question for others. Administrative work includes going to meetings, being a mediator between clinical staff and hospital boards or payers, and focusing on the long-term viability of the health care system. However, because short-term measurements, rather than long term, are commonly used to evaluate administrators, there is generally tenuous job stability.

The Leader- The leader is also often a skilled physician, but also may reach this status because of a charismatic personality. If you are the leader, your opinion carries weight regardless of your formal position. For example, the leader may want the practice to have an infusion center. Because of the leader’s influence, other doctors’ opinions may be swayed. Your life will undoubtedly be easier if you are the leader because you will have greater control over your environment.

The National Committee Representative- The national committee doctor serves on specialty committees in addition to clinical practice or research. Most academic departments still allow employed physicians to travel to national meetings. However, some are moving away from this because of financial concerns, limiting conference time and requiring doctors to make up patient care RVU’s for time spent at meetings. The national committee representative has the opportunity to work on a national level influencing the specialty- be it political action, health policy or residency training requirements.

The Up-To Date Doctor- The up to date doctor understands the new stuff. It may be medical records technology, new patient care devices, or even business models. The up to date doctor is not intimidated by learning new things and can adapt to changes readily. If you are a likeable up to date doctor, other doctors and administrators may begin to rely on you to learn what is coming down the pipe and ‘tell us what we need to know.’ This can give you great job security because others want to keep you around, for fear of sinking if you are no longer part of the team.

The Investor- The investor may own half the hospital. Often buying diagnostic services and therapeutic facilities, the investor is adept at billing and might have a full time clinical practice in addition to business ownership.

Some investors are more entrepreneurial, with an eye towards growth and possibly even businesses that are not directly associated with clinical medicine.

Which is your niche?

When you are choosing the area that you want to excel in within medicine, it may feel as if you are giving up some of your potential. However, you don't have to maintain the same niche forever. Some doctors spend 7-10 years in one niche and then switch to another. Some doctors start on one path- only to realize that it is the wrong fit. And if you find the right fit, you can continue to get better at it throughout your whole career.

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